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Prepare Family Before Holiday Visits with Seniors

Improve holiday visits with seniors by preparing family for changes. Feeling surprised by physical decline may cause rudeness, arguments, unwanted behavior.

Holiday gatherings can be a time of shocking updates

Many families only get together a couple of times a year for big holiday celebrations.

When family members see your older adult, they might be surprised or scared by their current condition.

You see your older adult all the time, so the way they appear and behave is normal to you.

But for others, it can be quite a shock if your older adult has declined since the last get-together.

Being surprised could make family members irrationally angry, treat your older adult poorly, or insist on making unwise changes to their care.

Minimize this unwanted behavior by giving your family a heads-up about what to expect before holiday events.

This is helpful because you’ll likely get fewer criticisms and rude comments and your older adult will likely be treated with greater care and respect.

We explain what you might want to share with family ahead of time and share a sample email letter that you can customize to suit your situation.


Let family know what to expect ahead of time

You’re used to managing your older adult’s health needs and daily activities, but many of the things that are now a part of daily life can be strange and worrisome to others.

You may want to update family ahead of time about your older adult’s current health condition, explain common behaviors, and suggest ways of interacting that will help your older adult enjoy the family gathering.

Things you may want to share:

  1. Recent photos

  2. Significant weight loss or gain

  3. Being in a wheelchair or relying heavily on a walker

  4. Wearing disposable briefs and dealing with incontinence

  5. Inability to do things for themselves, like eat or use the restroom

  6. Unpredictable behavior or memory and cognitive problems caused by Alzheimer’s disease or dementia

A sample email letter – customize to fit your situation

We’ve written this letter to explain changes caused by age and dementia. Tailor your message to fit your older adult’s health conditions and overall behavior.

I’m writing to let you know how things are going with mom. We’re both looking forward to your visit and thought it might be helpful if I explained our current situation before you arrive.

You might notice that mom has changed since you last saw her. Her doctors say she’s getting the correct care and these changes are common in people with advancing dementia.

Some of the things you might notice are that she’s lost weight and looks more frail. She uses a walker and is sensitive to larger crowds and too much noise. She also has some problems thinking clearly, so her behavior is a little unpredictable and may seem odd to you.

Please understand and don’t feel offended if she doesn’t remember who you are or confuses you with someone else. She appreciates your being with us and so do I. The warm feelings she’ll have after spending time with you is what she’ll remember.

Please treat mom as you would any person. She’s still “herself” inside even if she can’t always express it. She enjoys warm smiles and hugs and will love gentle touches on her shoulder or hands.

This all might seem strange to you, but Alzheimer’s is a strange disease that causes unpredictable changes. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a tough job and I’m doing the very best I can. With your help and support, we can create a holiday memory that we’ll all treasure.

I’ve attached a recent picture so you’ll know how she looks now.

Here are a few helpful resources if you’d like to learn more about mom’s health conditions before your visit.

Note: If your older adult doesn’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia, you might want to select different articles to include in your email. We’ve got plenty to choose from here on our website.

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team


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